If you get the urge to visit a nearby island this summer, why not head to Shikanoshima in the northern end of Hakata Bay? With a circumference of 11km, this little island is connected to the mainland by Umi-no-nakamichi, making it one of Japan’s few land-tied islands. You can drive along Hakata Bay to Shikanoshima, but another enjoyable method of transportation is the city-run ferry from Hakata Wharf.
Shikanoshima is an old island, and it is thought to have been a point of exchange with the Korean Peninsula and the Asian continent since olden times. One piece of evidence for this is the kin-in (gold seal) that was discovered there and which is now a national treasure. Carved with the inscription Kan no Wa no Na no Kokuo (King of the Na State of the Wa Vassal of the Han Dynasty), the gold seal is mentioned in China’s Hou Han Shu (History of the Later Han Dynasty). According to this chronicle, Emperor Guangwu of Han (China) gave the gold seal to a messenger from Wa (Japan) in 57 AD. It is currently on display at the Fukuoka City Museum. The site where the gold seal was unearthed has since been turned into Kin-in Park.
The island is also home to Shikaumi Shrine, an old shrine devoted to the gods of the sea, as well as Moukozuka and Kaenzuka, two mounds with ties to the Mongol invasions of Japan. The highest point on the island is the observation deck in Shiomi Park. In the daytime, you can see the other islands of the Genkai Sea, and at night, you can enjoy the lights of Fukuoka Tower and the rest of the city. Shikanoshima is an easily accessible resort for people living in Fukuoka, and during the summer months, it bustles with beachgoers and marine sports enthusiasts.
If you go to Shikanoshima don’t forget to partake in the ocean’s bounty. There are several shops on the island that serve fresh seafood. If you are looking for souvenirs, you can try the morning and night markets that are held on the weekends. Not only can you can enjoy freshly-caught seafood, you can also sample wakame, dried fish and grilled sazae, all of which as are Shikanoshima specialties. Be forewarned: Some of them sell out in about 30 minutes, so be sure you get there early.
Originally published by Fukuoka Now (August 2013).